American Historic Towns
Historic Towns of The Southern States

Edited by Lyman P. Powell
G. P. Putnam' Sons
New York and London
The Knickerbocker Press
1900



ANNAPOLIS
"YE ANCIENT CITY"
BY: SARA ANDREW SHAFER


NEITHER of the North nor of the South, of the Old nor of the New, the fair State of Maryland possesses a thousand charms that are all her own, as she clasps the blue, river fringed Chesapeake to her breast, and stretches out her lovely leagues of hill and vale, of field and forest and rocky glen, from where the sun rises out of the ocean beyond her "East'n Sho'" to where he sets behind the mountain ramparts of her western frontier. And of Maryland surely the heart lies in the quaint old city on the Severn, where the days are longer, the nights stiller, the sunshine more full of peace, and the moonlight more fraught with mystery than any place else in the world. To saunter through the streets of "Ye Ancient City" of Annapolis is to take a University Extension course in American history; to gaze upon her old houses is to behold the finest type of colonial architecture; while to read her annals is to be fired with the truest patriotism and to mingle in the best society of the picturesque days of long ago.

From our New World point of view, Annapolis is very old, dating back to 1608, when Captain John Smith, exploring the Chesapeake Bay, sailed up the Severn in search of favorable sites for settlements. She is fortunate in the figures that stand on her threshold, for next after the gallant Captain come the noble Calverts - George, Cecilius, Leonard, than whom were never lordlier men. To Cecilius, pledges made to his father were redeemed when, in 1632, Charles I. made him vast grants of lands beyond the Atlantic, in return for which all that was asked was allegiance to the English Crown; one fifth of all gold and silver to be discovered in the new domain, and an annual offering, to be made at Windsor Castle on Easter Tuesday, of two Indian arrowheads. The charter thus given was the freest ever bestowed upon any colony, and in return Lord Baltimore named his new possessions in honor of Queen Henrietta Maria, whose bigotry and arrogance had so much to do with the loss of her husband's crown and life, and which so strange are the relations of cause and effect - formed one of the broad foundation stones on which the modern superstructure of civil and religious freedom rests.

On November 30, 1633, two little ships, the Ark and the Dove, set sail from Cowes, under command of Leonard Calvert, brother of the Lord Proprietary, and having on board a goodly company of gentlemen adventurers. It was but the common sight of the putting out to sea of two insignificant boats to those who watched them from the shore that autumn day; but it stands out as marking a great era in the history of human progress. The pious and catholic Cecilius Calvert, carrying out the designs of his great father, had decreed that all men living under his protection should be free to serve God according to the dictates of their own consciences, - a decree so far in advance of their timers as to place the names of the Calverts forever in the foremost rank of the world's greatest and wisest men. After many adventures, on the 25th of March, the Feast of the Annunciation, the colonists landed. A precious early chronicle tells us that

"Heere we went to a place where a large tree was made into a Crosse, and taking it upon our shoulders, wee carried it to the place appointed for it. The gouvernour and Commissioners putting their hands first vpon it, and then the rest of the chiefest aduenturers. At the place prepared wee all kneeled downe and said certain Prayers, taking possession of the Countrey for our Savior, and for our Soueraigne Lord the King of England."

The early relations between the new corners and the aborigines seem to have been of the most friendly character, and the Relation of the Successful Beginning of the Lord Baltimore's Plantation in Maryland, from which we have just quoted, is full of the praises of the climate, the soil, the flora and fauna, and the general goodliness of the land. An Eden it must have been in its primeval loveliness !

As ever in Eden, there were serpents. The world was not yet worthy of the lofty ideas of the founder of the Terra Marice. The first Provincial Assembly, which met in 1637-38, had many grave questions to discuss, and these grew only graver as the political situation in England became more complicated - the power of the King waning while that of the Puritans waxed.

In 1642, the Churchmen in Virginia passed a Conventicle Act, which bore so heavily upon the non conforming Puritans that, in 1648, Governor Stone sent an invitation to the persecuted men to come and enjoy the liberties which, in the next year, were to go upon our Statute Books, and to be their glory forever, as the Toleration Act. In 1649, therefore, ten families crossed the Potomac, and on Severn side built a few huts, to which they gave the name of Providence.

Affairs were moving rapidly. The King had laid down his life. It was declared treason to own allegiance to his exiled son. The shoe was now decidedly on the Puritan foot, and without loss of time they proceeded to re read the Act of Toleration, and to make out a case for everybody but Church of England men and Romanists, who were now proscribed. This act of bigotry and ingratitude makes the darkest spot on the escutcheon of the Palatinate, nor is there much that is pleasant to read in the jealousies, bickerings and aggressions of the next few years. A county was formed in 1650, and named in honor of the gentle Anne Arundel, wife of Lord Baltimore. A treaty of peace between the white men and the red was signed in 1652, and the name of the village was changed to "The Town at Proctors." These things are about all we need to know until, the Revolution of 1688 having been accomplished, Maryland became a royal province, and the first royal governor, Sir Lionel Copley, came over. In 1694 the seat of government was removed from the original seat, St. Mary's, to the place which, after bearing three or four names, finally settled upon that of Annapolis, a mongrel title, assumed in honor of the then heiress to the Crown.

There is but one rational way of beginning a sketch of the old town, and that is to look first, as did the wise hearted early Annapolitans, at the Church, the State House, and the School, and to picture them as they stand on smooth green lawns, high on the little peninsula, almost encircled by the silver marriage ring of the Severn and its estuaries.

The Church (for although the praise of God arises from many altars, the interest naturally centres in the eldest born) is a long, low structure, giving an odd impression of some seaworthy craft cast adrift upon the green tideless sea of its spacious Circle. It was named, we fancy, for various Annes: the mother of the Virgin, the Lady Anne Arundel, and the Queen to be. St. Anne's it has ever been, bearing the name through three baptisms of fire, in one of which, it is said, the bell, Queen Anne's own gift, rung its own knell in a most weird and pathetic manner. Once upon a time its yard was the village burying ground, but its early tenants have all been disturbed in their rest, and only one or two box tombs remain, on which the sparrows, which have built themselves nests in the ivy on the walls, hop and chirp contentedly. The only relic still possessed by St. Anne's is the Communion Plate, which bears the arms of William III. and the date, 1695. It, too, was a gift from that "great Anne whom three realms obeyed," who seems to have had a special fondness for sending like mementoes to the infant colonies. The first clergyman, Dr. Bray, sent out to care for the souls of the Annapolitans, received ten thousand pounds of tobacco as his stipend - this, of course, after, the Church of England was made the Established Church. Seats were reserved in the sacred edifice for the Governor and members of the legislative bodies; and in addition their attendance was made compulsory. The first missionary meeting of which we hear in America was held in St. Anne's, when a pious annual five and twenty pounds was voted to be applied to the conversion, not of the heathen Susquehannoghs, as one might have expected, but of the Quakers of Pennsylvania!

Not far from the Church stands the first free school on the continent, once King William's School, and under the direction of the Archbishop of Canterbury, but, for many a long and useful year, St. John's College. Its principal building, McDowell Hall, was built in 1744, for a royal governor, and is flanked by dignified houses standing well back upon the green campus, a picture of ivy clad repose that is very pleasing. A part of a gift of books sent by the good King William is still cherished in the library, and on the roll of students are many of the brightest names the State can boast. On the campus stands a very old tulip tree. Tradition says that under its shadow the treaty with the Susquehannoghs was signed in 1652, and it is certain that it must have been of great age even then. A fire burned away part of its trunk years ago, but the hole was boarded up, a friendly ivy has done its best to hide the scars, and the brave old tree yields its toll of blossoms to each passing June, and bids fair to do so when the grandsons of the youngest lad now playing beneath its branches shall come to visit this lost monarch of a vanished forest. Here were pitched the tents of the French troops which came to aid us in our hour of peril, and here were camps again during our second struggle with England, and during the Civil War. Nor did all leave when the order to strike tents came.

" Under the sun and the dew,
Waiting the Judgment Day,"

the tenants of some low grassy mounds here sleep in nameless peace.

If Annapolis is the heart of Maryland, its cor cordium lies in the State House standing in the great green circle which overlooks the city, the river and the bay. Like the Church, it is now nearing its third outward and visible form, fire having destroyed the two earlier structures. The corner stone of the present edifice was laid in 1772, and it was designed in the best spirit of the style we call colonial. Ample spaces of English patterned brick divide its rather small windows, a simple pillared portico guards its doorway, and it is covered by a curious but very agreeable dome. Under its roof the various executive, legal and legislative branches of the State government find lodging. Its rotunda is decorated with the most elaborate stucco work, and throughout the old pile are many, many memorials of days gone by: none of them more interesting than the Great Seal, brought over by Governor Stone in 1648, and which is, substantially, the coat of arms of the Calverts. From the dome and the portico fine views can be obtained. There is a dignity and consequence about the building which not even the noisiest session of the Legislature can wholly dissipate; in a word, the old State House is the pride and glory of the commonwealth.

We have not even touched upon the gallant part played by the citizens of the town and the colony in the Revolution; but at last the war was over, Washington had bidden adieu to his troops in New York, and had come hither to lay in the hands of the Congress of the States, in session in the chamber in which the Treaty of Peace was to be signed a year later, his commission as Commander in chief of the armies. That he had been nominated to that high office by a Marylander, Thomas Johnson, who had, in 1777, become the first Governor of the State, added not a little to the interest of a scene described by every pen that writes of the times. The simplicity, manliness, pathos and true dignity of the event have never been better portrayed than in the vast painting which adorns the historic room. Portraits of our four signers, Paca, Stone, Chase, and Carroll of Carrollton, are also seen here, as well as those of other men who fought with pen or sword to make us free.


An odd little building, with flagged floors, huge bolts, and most ponderous keys, still stands on the Circle, and serves as our Treasury. It was once the home of the House of Burgesses, and is perhaps the only building left to us from the seventeenth century. And there are statues here of Chief Justice Taney, and of Baron DeKalb, who fell at the head of his Marylanders in the battle of Camden; but, more distinctly than these, we see the figures of Washington and Lafayette and all that goodly fellowship, and it is they who will walk the State House green when the bronzes are dust.

Wandering through the leafy streets, with ever a glimpse of bright water, or a white sail shining between the trees, one notes the Old World flavor of their names; Cornhill, Hanover, Prince George (of Denmark), King George (the First), Duke of Gloucester, in honor, this, of the pathetic little royal child whose early death broke the heart of William of Orange, and left Queen Anne a childless woman. And the houses that border the streets, sometimes set close to the pavement, sometimes half hidden by trees, are worthy of them, and of the air of unspeakable contentment and aloofness from the cares of this world which is characteristic of the place. Here is one built by the Proprietary Governor, Ogle, spacious and elegant, in whose garden are yet some bits, of the box bordering of a forgotten labyrinth, and here is one whose carved doorway arrests every eye. The Paca homestead has wings that are little houses of themselves, joined to the house proper by long, low corridors; and opposite to it, in the delightful little Iglehart house, there is a panelled room where ghosts might walk. The facade of the Brice mansion, built of English brick, as is many another in the town, with long corridors and transverse wings, is said to be two hundred feet long; while within, the drawing room situated in the old fashion at the back of the house that it might overlook the garden, is yet the delight and despair of architects, so noble are its proportions, and so fine the carved work of its cornice and chimney piece. The fame of the latter is, indeed, international. On the State House Circle the Randall or Bordley house, built in 1740, stands in a proud seclusion of magnolias and ivy hung trees, and behind a tiny paddock where a pretty Jersey cow sometimes grazes. Not far away the Lloyd or Chase house lifts its walls in a haughty consciousness of being the finest specimen of its class in America. It not only boasts of mahogany doors with wrought silver latches, carved shutters and cornices, noble drawing rooms and chambers, a vast hall with a curious, double flight of stairs, but has also a carved breakfast room which is ideal.

On Hanover Street is the stone mansion of Anthony Stewart, the merchant whose brig, the Peggy Stewart, came into harbor one October day in 1764, laden with the repudiated tea. So incensed were the stout hearted Annapolitans that, to escape their ire, poor Anthony, with his own hands, set fire to the ill starred brig, his wife, the Peggy for whom the boat was named, watching from her chamber window the sacrificial flames mounting from the water's edge. We keep a Peggy Stewart Day, now, in Maryland, and some of us like to remember that Peggy, too, was once the mistress of a breakfast room which was ideal.

At the foot of Duke of Gloucester Street, in 1760, John Ridout built for himself and his children three houses that are like a castle; and just across, hidden by the beautiful St. Mary's Church, lies Carrollton, the home of Charles Carroll.(1) It is occupied now by the Redemptorist priests, and the profane shoe of a woman can gain for its owner no nearer view than that to be had from the bridge that spans the waterway below. It looks a very charming place, built in the Dutch rather than the Georgian taste: gray, small windows, high roofed, and set in a garden which is what all Annapolis gardens are, and what all gardens everywhere ought to be, an ordered wilderness of hollies, box, magnolias, roses, lilacs, more roses and yet more lilacs, jessamine, wallflowers, iris, lilies, violets, daffodils, all the old fashioned flowers which ever were and ever will be the dearest and sweetest flowers in the world.

It is hard to come back even to the first days of the century just closing. The defence made by the guns of Fort Severn, which kept Admiral Cockburn at bay, seem but recent history in the light of other years, nor can the stirring scenes of the Civil and Spanish wars claim even a glance. Filled with the spirit of the golden days of the Athens of America, we sit in the deep window seat of a panelled room, looking out across intervening lush and flowery growths, at the dome of the State House and at the aerial procession of the old denizens. What a procession it is ! Indians, explorers, Lords Proprietary, Governors Royal, Republican, Puritans, Cavaliers, priests, shipowners, sailors, slaves ! Ships sail out with rich freights of tobacco and other Colonial produce, and ships sail in, bearing yet richer stores of silks and spices, wines and perfumes, silver and porcelain and sumptuous household furnishings. We see the growth in aristocracy, in wealth, in hospitality, in luxury, the plenty of those lavish boards, the splendor and courtliness of dress and manners of the gentry. Sedan chairs, carried by the liveried servants, attended by link boys and by bowing, perruqued gentlemen in gold lace waistcoats and buckled shoes, bear the patched and powdered ladies to balls and routs. We hear the gossip of the playhouse, the first in America or of the races. The bon mots of the Tuesday Club are told again; the wit flashes at the dinner given in honor of the King's birthday; the defeat of the Pretender, the birth of the Dauphin, the repeal of the Stamp Act, the coming of Washington. Anything would

"Serve as excuse for the glass"

in those

" Very merry,
Dancing, drinking,
Laughing, quaffing, and unthinking times."


We hear, above the grave tones of the men who are talking of the affairs of state, the clear voices of the women - fair, slender, sweet, in pearls and brocade, singing to the accompaniment of spinet or harpsichord music, as unlike ours as were their faces or their thoughts, and we all but forget that the Past is dead and can come no more, and that these are but echoes and shadows and the ashes of roses.

Behind a long brick wall, gated and sentried, lies the United States Naval Academy, and another world.

"But that," as Hans Andersen says, "is another story"; a story familiar at a thousand American firesides where the life of a son dedicated to the navy is lived over by fond hearts; a story told on every wave of every sea where our American ships ride on their mission.

On the 13th of June, 1845, James K. Polk, being President of the United States, and George Bancroft, Secretary of the Navy, a letter was written by Mr. Bancroft to a Board of Examiners of Midshipmen, sitting in Philadelphia, proposing the foundation of a naval school, and suggesting Fort Severn as a suitable site. Urged by Commodore Thomas Ap-Catesby Jones and Captain Isaac Mayo, the Committee approved the suggestion, and, although the usual congressional and sectional opposition had to be overcome, the School was opened on October 10th of the same year. During the war there was a temporary flight to Newport, and there have been, from time to time, various schemes for removing it permanently from Annapolis. It has long since become a permanent fixture, and additions have been made to the Fort Severn property (purchased in 1808), making an ample and beautiful home for the cadets and their corps of instructors.

Time ceases to be subject to clocks when one enters the green, shady Academy grounds, beside which the waters flash and gleam, and bells divide the hours of the busy lives of the lithe young sailors who are forever marching under the trees to this duty or to that; and whose four years of residence are crowded with ten thousand things which a landsman need not know, but which go to make a finished seaman. Among the officers, gravely saluting them as they go to classes, one sees many a famous face, for many of the simple, quiet gentlemen have done great deeds in their day.

There are some memorials of older days the monument which recalls our victory at Tripoli, some cannon captured in some

" Sea-fight far away,"

and some figure heads of ancient ships. Most precious of all is the worn flag, guarded jealously in the Naval Institute, which bore the wonderful message

" Don't give up the Ship."


By the docks lie various craft needed for the instruction of the midshipmen; and with them the old Santee, dismantled, a ghost of herself, lies at her last moorings. She has seen strange sights in her day, the old Santee, none perhaps stranger than the trim young steel giants of our modern navy which steam up the Bay at times.

Historically, the gem of the Academy is the Library building, which was built by Edmund Jennings, and served as a home for our governors from 1760 until 1868. It has had Washington for its guest, and many another great man of his time. And so, no doubt, had the fine old home of the Dulanys, near by, which was built as early as 1751. An iconoclastic superintendent ordered its destruction in 1883, - a loss irreparable to the lovers of the old town.

And all are its lovers, who have once felt its abiding charm.


1. Of all the deeds whereby Charles Carroll served his country, none, perhaps, was more noteworthy than the writing of the four letters to the Maryland Gazette, in 1773, signed "First Citizen." In them he pitted his young strength against the marvellous learning of Daniel Dulany, the greatest lawyer of all the colonies, whose letters to the same paper were signed "Antilon." His brave defence of the rights of the people brought Mr. Carroll the unprecedented honor of an adjournment of the Legislature that that body might visit his house en masse, to express its thanks and appreciation.

Historic towns of the Southern States

Return to History at Rays Place